Five Things

“Do you know Hannah Drake? She would be an amazing guest on your show.”

I’ve heard this same sentence from probably five or six different people over the last few months. I didn’t know Hannah Drake personally but we have several friends in common, including her co-worker Theo Edmonds, who was one of the first guests on this program.

Now I can say that I know Hannah Drake, and she was indeed an amazing guest. She’s someone who thinks deeply, feels deeply and communicates brilliantly. She’ll be appearing with the Louisville Ballet at the end of January, in a collaborative project between writers and dancers. All of Hannah’s items were fascinating, but one in particular resonated with me in a way I didn’t expect.

On some tufts of cotton that she picked herself in Natchez, Mississippi:

“I wanted to [pick cotton], one, to pay homage to my ancestors, but two, my mother had told me when she was eight, she picked cotton for three years. This was her life. So I wanted to experience it. So I did, and only for a few minutes — might not even have been a minute. I was hot! I could not wrap my mind around doing that, day in and day out, for the entirety of my life as far as I would know.”

On her salt and pepper shakers, depicting a pair of cooks in blackface:

“They were still selling them in New Orleans, and I had to have them because I could not believe, in 2017, I could still buy salt and pepper shakers that looked like this, in blackface. It showed me that I still have a lot of work to do.”

On going to Dakar, Senegal, as a way of searching for her family history:

“When you don’t know where you come from, or people are so quick to say, ‘well, that was so long ago, just get over it,’ that when you’re searching for parts of you and you don’t know where you came from, how you got here… Why do I like to write? Did someone in my family enjoy that? I don’t know. Why do I look this way? Why are my mannerisms this way? And when I went to Dakar, and saw these women cook these elaborate meals, and tie their hair in their hair wraps, I saw so much of my family there. And it was like everything just made sense.”

Tara Anderson is the host and producer of Five Things, a podcast about the objects that tell our stories.